Committee backs renewable energy targets
But MSPs say issues still need to be addressed
by Neil Evans
Ambitious renewable energy targets for Scotland can be met – a parliament committee has said today.
But the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, which has published a long-awaited report, said a number of issues need to be addressed including planning, training and access to finance if the aim of generation 100 per cent of the nation’s electricity from green sources by 2020 was to be achieved.
The 86-page report also added there was a “risk” that a target of 11 per cent of heat demand to be renewable would not be met.
The committee, chaired by Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, took evidence earlier this year on the achievability of renewable energy target.
It looked at a wide range of aspects including Electricity Market Reform, the impact on communities and whether it would affect tourism.
This last aspect proved the most controversial as it included an evidence session from US tycoon Donald Trump, who objected to proposals for a major offshore wind farm off the coast of his new golf course in Aberdeenshire.
Trump, and other witnesses and respondents to the inquiry claimed wind farms in particular would put off people from visiting Scotland.
But the report concluded there was no “empirical evidence to back this up.
It said: “No one has provided the committee with evidence, as opposed to opinion, that tourism is being negatively affected by the development of renewable projects.”
But, it added: “Given the importance of this issue, the committee recommends that VisitScotland and the Scottish Government continue to gather evidence on this from visitors to Scotland.”
The cross-party committee did not reach agreement on all aspects of the report, in particular Murdo Fraser dissented from the report’s recommendation of a reversal on any subsidies for nuclear power – and he and Labour’s Rhoda Grant disagreed with the consensus that debate over independence was not undermining investment decisions.
Fraser said: “After a wide ranging inquiry, taking extensive evidence, our committee has concluded that the electricity target can be achieved but only if the issues outlined in this report are acted upon. Our recommendations are crucial to the success of the renewables industry in Scotland, and focus on issues such as access to finance, the planning system, infrastructure development and investment in skills.”
He added: “The overwhelming message from investors was that strong leadership, and a robust and reliable investment climate and subsidy regime is critical for the targets to be met. The Committee regrets the reluctance of some banks to invest and in the current financial environment, is concerned that the renewables industry will not have access to the finance it needs to grow, which will ultimately put the targets at risk.”
One particular aspect raised was of concern over skills shortages, deputy convener and SNP MSP Dennis Robertson said: “The committee was concerned to hear a number of witnesses question the achievability of the targets due to skill shortages. More work needs to be done to address our relatively low take up of subjects like engineering, maths and science.”
“The committee recommends that the Government works with industry to challenge any negative perceptions which may adversely influence career choices particularly for women.”